IFD: David Turner has been shark fishing since the early 1960’s. This was a special time in sharking in Cornwall and David was around for those halcyon days before the sharking dried up for several years. Having been onboard for the capture of two makos including one of his own. David went on to write a book about these experiences and more in his book The Shark Fisherman. So now over to David….
What are your earliest memories of fishing?
My first fishing experience was with my Dad and I was about four years old. We lived in Oxford, and people would rent out punts on the river in the summertime. So I remember Mum and Dad rented one and off we went with a bamboo rod and home made tackle. I can still see Dad telling me to strike when the float goes under, and my love of fishing started from there.
How did you become aware of shark fishing?
When I was about eight, my Dad showed me a picture in a book of a guy standing beside a fish that was twice his size! He told me it was a shark and they could eat people. As a young boy it made quite an impression. While at school I used to get the Angling Times every week. I would flick through to the catch reports to see if any sharks had been caught. Every May and June I would eagerly await any reports of any makos and I was desperate to get down as soon as I was old enough.
How did your first trip come about?
We used to go on family holidays in Corwall and by 1963 I left school and had a job so I booked my first trip with Jack Butters on his boat “Paula” out of Looe. That first year was a half hearted effort as the Winter had been so cold that year. We anchored up on the Eddystone reef, fished for pollock and put shark baits out under balloons. Needless to say we didn’t catch any that year. The following year I was booked in with Jack again and when I got to the quay I was disappointed to learn I had been switched boat on to another boat the Moby Dick. We went out and had nothing and I was not too happy when we got back in to learn Jack’s boat had a 100lb blue! My next two trips were out of Newquay and on the first trip a guy onboard caught a small blue and on the next trip I had two, one of 60lb and the second was 77lb which qualified me for the Shark Anglers club of Great Britain. I fished one more year at Newquay and by now was having up to five blues in a day.
How did you start fishing with Robin Vinnicombe?
Well the guy in Newquay packed it in so I had to look elsewhere. So I started going out with Robin out of Falmouth. The first boat he had was a big 54ft ex-scottish trawler or longliner. Then in 1967 he bought a boat called the Huntress which was a wooden 34ft and a very good sea boat which lost very few days to the weather. Robin has caught more makos than anyone else and three times more than his nearest rival.
Can you tell me about your mako target?
Well obviously we were catching lots of blue shark, but every single time you went out you were hoping for a mako. Then one day we were out in 1970 and my fishing buddy Phil Taylor got on at 370lb and the following year in 1971 I had mine at 355lb.
Can you tell us about the day you had yours?
Well it was the perfect day really, we went out with clear blue skiers over us and a slight SW breeze. We started drifting and for the first few hours had nothing. Then my reel gave a few clicks, nothing major just a small run. I started winding in the slack, gave it a bit of a tug and it started coming in quite easily. I said to Robin it must be a small blue, the float was still attached and as i got to the side of the boat it just took off like a missile with the balloon racing across the surface and the line hissed as it cut through the water and we both shouted mako! It didn’t jump like they normally do so for 45 mins we couldn’t actually see it and I started wondering was it a mako. It was certainly very fast but in that moment you just don’t know. Then a fin came up and Robin said it’s a mako alright. The fish weighed 355lb and I was elated.
After 1971 the shark fishing seemed to have gone done in a major way off Corwall can you tell us about that?
The fishing in 1971 was excellent but by the following year the sharks seemed to be very thin on the ground. For the next few years you could do five trips out and only get one shark. In 1975 I moved to Cornwall with my wife. It was my intention to start a charter business but with the sharks now gone I took up commercial fishing for the next five years or so. Nowadays however they seem to be back in numbers so it will be interesting to see what next turns up.
Nowadays do you still get to do any sharking?
Well I have always loved sharking although I will fish for anything. I had to take some years out when I had a young family and was commercial fishing, but I have been out with Andrew Alsop and have done a fair bit of fishing in Ireland where I have lived in Mayo for the last number of years. I am in the process of moving back to Cornwall this year so I hope to continue the sharking there.
What sharking ambition keeps you going all these years later?
I would love to one day catch a thresher. No one has managed to catch the big four, blue, porbeagle, mako and thresher. A couple of people have had three also, Andy Griffiths for one. I’m tying with Andy on that one so Im sure he wants a thresher as well. I wont be fanatically chasing one but it would be nice to get alright. I believe they are back in the Falmouth area so I don’t see why not. I’m just hoping that one day when I’m out there one will pick up the bait. Another thing I would like to see happen is a confirmed record of great white in UK waters. I remember Robin telling me how he had hooked one in 1965 and he reckoned it was definitely one but got off.
You wrote your book The Shark Fisherman which chronicles the Cornwall sharking over many years, what was the experience of writing a book like?
I started and nearly gave up many times. I eventually got it all together and put it forward to two publishers, who although interested said it was not their usual material. The third publisher Little Egret press decided to publish it though unfortunately is only available through the publisher and it’s such a shame it’s not available in the shops in Falmouth or on Amazon.
What are your angling hopes for 2015?
Well if we move back to Cornwall I have a friend over there who runs a charter boat and I shall be going out with him and just enjoy the fishing really….
Well David thanks for talking to us
My pleasure anytime lads